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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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The 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts Are Here

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Note: our comprehensive 2018-2019 Common App Essay Guide is now live! Check it out for best strategies, sample excerpts from successful applicants, and more.


Each year, it is with great anticipation that high school juniors across the country await the release of the essay prompts for the following year’s Common Application. Some years, broad changes are announced. Other years, the prompts remain unchanged.


This year, the essay prompts have been released and there’s good news. The prompts for 2018 will remain the same as they were in 2017. In this post, we’ll discuss why this is a good thing and we’ll point you in the direction of our countless resources compiled about the Common Application. If you’ll be applying to college in 2018, don’t miss these Common Application tips.


The Common Application 2018-2019 Essay Prompts


  1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.


  1. The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?


  1. Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?


  1. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma- anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.


  1. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.


  1. Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more? 


  1. Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you’ve already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.

Why the 2018-2019 Common Application Essay Prompts Make Your Job Easier


Some years, students go into the essays blind. The prompts are new and untested. Sometimes the format or length even changes. This can be a daunting prospect.


In years when the prompts remain the same, though, you have some examples to work from. Your guidance counselor and college admissions counselors are familiar with them and have worked with students on the same prompts before. You might even be able to read examples from past students to get your creative juices flowing.


In addition, if you have the time and feel the itch to get started, you can take advantage of the Common Application account rollover feature to start an application now, and roll it over to complete in the fall when your application period officially begins.


While we generally advise students to begin working on their applications during the summer before senior year, there’s nothing wrong with starting earlier if you have a good handle on the other things you need to tackle during junior year, like standardized testing, APs, and your regular school and extracurricular commitments. If you’re one of those students who writes best during an inspired moment of creativity, by all means capture the moment no matter when it arrives.


Other Ways to Prepare for the Common Application Before Senior Year


Many high school juniors wonder what they can be doing now to get started working towards their Common Applications. While our advice to wait until the summer before senior year remains the same, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain skills you can develop or details to tackle now.


First, work hard to improve your writing as much as possible. Your personal essay prompts are your chance to really shine as an individual and set yourself apart from a pool of similarly qualified candidates. This means you’ll need to develop a sense of voice in your written work that is both polished and personal. You can do this by writing frequently, paying attention to the feedback you get on written work from teachers across all subject areas, and by joining writing groups or tutoring sessions. Improving your writing skills is one of the most important things you can do to prepare for college applications.


To learn more about improving your writing skills, see these posts:


How to Sharpen Your Writing Skills

Parents: 10 Easy Ways to Help Your Teen Become a Better Writer


Another way to prepare for the Common Application is to begin initial brainstorming about the essay prompts. For some students, the choice of which prompt to tackle is obvious immediately. For others, it takes much longer to make a decision. It’s a good idea to begin a list of possible essay topics. They might fit with a specific prompt, or they may just make good essay fodder to be sculpted into a prompt later. Also, remember that the last prompt allows you to submit an existing essay or even create your own prompt. Keep your eyes and ears open to compile a diverse and eclectic mix of topics to choose from when the time comes.


If you’re a high school junior getting ready to consider the 2018-2019 college application season, don’t miss these important CollegeVine posts:


A User’s Guide to the Common Application

FAQ About the Race/Ethnicity Section of the Common Application

A Guide to the ‘Demographics’ Page of the Common Application

A Guide to the Education Section of the Common App

How to Master the ‘Honors’ Section of the Common App


Want help with your college essays to improve your admissions chances? Sign up for your free CollegeVine account and get access to our essay guides and courses. You can also get your essay peer-reviewed and improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays.


For more about writing application essays, check out these CollegeVine posts:


What If I Don’t Have Anything Interesting To Write About In My College Essay?

How to Write a Last Minute Essay

How to Write the Common Application Essays 2018-2019

Whom Should I Ask for Help with My College Essay?

Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.